With an expanded stage, dazzling lighting effects and a huge, talented cast, the always-impressive Northwest Children’s Theater & School (NWCT) premiered The Wizard of Oz this Saturday. My 4½-year-old daughter, Adela, and I and our friends Sara and Owen, 6, saw the first show of the run (December 3 to January 2).
Adela and I had seen past NWCT productions Elephant & Piggie and The Cat in the Hat, but for The Wizard of Oz, the main stage spilled into the wings. The main aisle and balcony were also employed by the actors and crew. Parts of the Kansas set moved off the stage and down the aisle, and Dorothy and friends romped right past us several times on their trek around Oz. (Adela and Owen were positively tickled when Toto ran right past our seats, too.)
The images projected onto the ceiling and stage added a magical effect to the production. Owen excitedly pointed out to Adela the changing effects above our heads — white swirls during the tornado, red poppies in the sleep-inducing field, green squares at Emerald City. They also loved the bubbles blown into the audience to announce Glinda’s arrival and catching the magical “snow” that fell on us when Glinda once again saved the day. “It was really little pieces of tissue paper,” remarked Adela when I asked her if she liked the snow.
NWCT recommended this show for ages 5 and older — and with good reason, a few of the scenes were a bit scary. The wicked witch and her flying monkeys had Adela covering her eyes and cuddling up to me. And right before Dorothy gave the witch a soaking, I noticed other kids around us (even older ones) snuggled safely next to their grown-ups, too. However NWCT smartly kept the scary scenes very short and Dorothy and her pals got out of trouble before Adela got too worried. The show also ran 2 ½ hours, but that included an intermission long enough to purchase some snacks and visit the bathroom. But even with the length of the show, Adela and Owen remained riveted by the action on the stage and all around us.
Adela particularly loved the singing and Dorothy herself, played by the sunny and sweet Ronni Lee. And both kids laughed loudly at the slapstick antics of the Cowardly Lion (Andrés Alcalá) and were awed by the pink perfection of Glinda (Kari Christensen). Sara and I were beyond impressed by the kid actors in the cast who took on numerous roles, musical numbers and costume changes – Munchkins to enchanted trees to Ozians to Winkies.
All in all Northwest Children’s Theater’s The Wizard of Oz was an incredibly well-executed show that will transport your kids over the rainbow and make them fall in love with the magic of the theater.